Pet Symptom Checker

Joint pain

Medical name: Arthritis


  • Lameness
  • Unable to get up
  • Walking stiffly
  • Swollen joints


Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis — that painful, debilitating condition that destroys cartilage in the joints — can afflict dogs of any age. As a degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis can have hereditary or developmental causes — among them, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia or osteochondrosis. An earlier traumatic injury to a joint — even one that was not noticed at the time — can come back to haunt a dog as osteoarthritis, years later. Osteoarthritis is not necessarily an inflammatory disease. But rheumatoid arthritis is an immune-mediated inflammatory disease. Some irregularity in the dog’s immune system allows a hypersensitivity reaction. Natural substances called immune complexes are deposited in the synovial membrane of the joints, and destructive enzymes are released from inflammatory cells to destroy cartilage. Sometimes an unlucky dog can have both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in the same joint at the same time. Arthritis in dogs is diagnosed with imaging and by analysis of synovial fluid from the affected joint. Depending on the type and stage of arthritis and the level of disability in the dog, treatment options include surgery, anti-inflammatory medications, or physical therapy (some dogs love the underwater treadmill) to rebuild muscle strength. Also pain-management treatments, joint-health supplements, acupuncture, and veterinary chiropractice can help. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, efforts to resolve the immune reaction might include diet change. Your veterinarian can plan a course of action to help your dog cope with arthritis. Do not try any of these treatments — not even over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications — without your veterinarian’s say-so.

Zootoo does not provide veterinary medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s medical condition.
If you think your pet may be experiencing a medical emergency, call your veterinarian or an emergency animal care facility immediately.

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